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Police Involved Homicides – Where’s Our Outrage?

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Here’s a very disturbing story that has not been reported in the national press. You may not have heard about this even though it has been happening for decades.

There is a growing number of African-American men infiltrating local police departments and abusing their authority to intimidate predominately white men within their communities. Some of these black officers are bulking up on steroids. In some cases these black cops are affiliated with Black Power movements. These rogue officers of color are stopping and harassing white men on the street, frisking them without cause or illegally searching their cars. When white citizens object or complain, these black cops turn hostile and become aggressive. Hesitate to comply with an order and these innocent detainees are taken down, handcuffed and arrested. Any further resistance or any small suspicion that these guys are armed leads to the threat or use of deadly force.

In March of 2004 the US Department of Justice issued a report on the use of anabolic steroid abuse by police officers. Reported as specific concerns related to the psychological side effects anabolic steroid use were these:

  • · Mood swings (including manic-like symptoms leading to violence)
  • · Impaired judgment (stemming from feelings of invincibility)
  • · Depression
  • · Nervousness
  • · Extreme irritability
  • · Delusions
  • · Hostility and aggression

The infiltration of American police departments by radical racist cops was document by the FBI in a report and warning written in October of 2006. The report’s release was held up by Congress for years out of fear of the political repercussions.

And despite the growing number of police involved homicides of civilians every year, the FBI is unable to keep accurate statistics on how many white citizens are being killed by overly aggressive black cops. By some non-government sources the number is as high as 600 deaths per year.

Where is our outrage? Where is the media? Why aren’t government officials putting a stop to this carnage? Why aren’t they holding these black cops accountable for the deaths of hundreds of innocent white men every year?

If this reporting shocks you or doesn’t sound familiar, then you are among the millions of American’s who aren’t paying attention. If you can’t see the little white lies I told you above, you are part of a much bigger problem.

The white lie above is that it is actually white cops who are actually abusing their authority and victims of abusive policing are disproportionately African-American. The truth is that it is white supremacists that are infiltrating police departments. The rest is all true. It is true that hundreds of innocent black males are killed in police actions every years. It is true that the FBI is not able to collect accurate statistics on civilians killed in police actions in the US because all such reporting is voluntary. And if you didn’t recognize where my story was going, if you thought black cops are killing white civilians, then you just discovered that the media is failing us and government officials aren’t doing all they can to stop this carnage.

If my story above hadn’t contained those few white lies, if white men really were being killed by overly aggressive black cops,  you would lionize a football player sitting down during the National Anthem to call your attention to the problem. You would recognize his courage and commitment.  As it is, the misplaced outrage of sports fans against Colin Kaepernick for his lonely protest is a self indictment of our complacency and callous disregard for our fellow citizens.

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The Facts About Police Action Fatalities in America

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

On April 4, 2015, Walter Scott, an African-American resident of South Carolina, was stopped for having a broken tail light. He was stopped by Officer Michael Slager, a White, North Charleston police officer. A few minutes later Scott was shot several times in the back while trying to flee. The incident was presented as a justifiable use of force by authorities until a videotape surfaced Slager calmly aiming his service weapon and firing into the back of Mr. Scott as he was running away. It was national news.

Stories of people killed by local police action rarely get national attention. Unless there is some dramatic twist or shocking video, the incidents are only reported in hyper-local community newspapers. The only sources for these reports are usually a police spokespersons and sometimes friends or grieving family members. When cases like the Scott shooting do capture regional or national attention they also raise significant, unanswered questions. Just how many citizens are killed in police actions in this country? Is this rare? Who is keeping track of the numbers? Does this sort of thing happen mostly in certain areas or departments? Is it just a few bad apples or are there larger patterns?

There are no national databases to track civilian deaths that result from police actions. The FBI does maintains a partial database of “justified police homicides,” but reporting by state and local authorities is voluntary. Only 750 of the more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies in this country submit their data. This limited reporting yields about 400 police homicides per year,

Almost two years ago a group of dedicated citizens began searching through local newspaper accounts of police involved civilian deaths throughout the country. They started a Website called KilledByPolice.net. They compile names of civilian casualties and added links to the initial news accounts. They also open a Facebook page on each person killed to post follow-up news accounts and to collect any local comments about these cases. Most of these fatalities are police homicides, justified or otherwise, but the data also includes murder/suicides by police officers, fatal DWI accident where the officers were intoxicated, police assisted suicides of mentally ill persons and other such categories. This effort turns out to be the most comprehensive data resource I’ve seen so far on police action fatalities. Based on this raw material I have begun my own analysis of the data.

Here is a brief summary of my initial findings to date.

Between May 1, 2013 and April 4th, 2015 there were 2,181 people killed by police officers in the United States. That works out to around 95 per month or 3 police action fatalities per day. There is clearly a gender bias in police action fatalities. Almost all are males, 2,044, with only 135 females killed in this 23 month period. In six other case the gender was undisclosed.

The full identity of 565 fatality victims were not disclosed to the media as of yet. The average age of the known fatality victims is 36.9 years, which is also the national median age of the population. This means that there is no age bias in police action fatality. Younger people are not more likely to be killed in a police action, for example.

Regarding race and ethnicity, Latino’s make up 18.7% of the general population and were 17% of the fatality victims during the past 23 months, suggesting their rate of police involved fatalities is proportional on a national scale. This may not be uniformly true in every locality.

Whites make up 77% of the population but only 48.1% of the victims. African-Americans make up just 13.2% of the general population but 30.5% of the total fatalities. This clearly suggests a racial bias in police action fatalities.

When the data was sorted by U.S. Census regions, 41.5% of all police action fatalities took place in the Southern states. Add California’s 730 incidents to the Southern total and the subsequent total account for 58.4% of all cases nationwide. In contrast, police action fatalities in the highly populated Northeast make up 9% of the total. (see pie chart) The large regional differences strongly suggest that these incidents are not the random acts of a few bad apples, as some suggest, but real differences in police training, policy and culture.

 

The states with the highest rate of police action fatalities, in descending order, are Alabama, Wisconsin, Washington State, Arizona, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Wyoming, Vermont and Idaho have the lowest rates. The states with the highest annual average of civilian fatalities are California (193), Texas (112), Florida (93), Arizona (50) and Illinois (33).

The data contained in the KilledByPolice Website is far more extensive since in contains reports of the police accounts and some follow-up articles, but this information is not yet in a form that allows for statistical analysis. It seems that most of the reports I reviewed so far involve police shootings, but this remains to be verified.

Defenders of law enforcement will say, with some justification, that the vast majority of police officers are honorable, law abiding and competent professionals who put their lives on the line to serve and protect the public. This is a true statement. As a whole the incidents of police action fatalities involves a tiny fraction of the overall mortality rate and it is sure to be a tiny fraction of all incidents of police engagement as well. This, however, is not a high standard to judge whether the current rate of fatal outcomes is significant.  To help put these numbers a national context, there were only 70 civilians killed by the police in Great Britain in the last 90 years.

The better standard to judge the significance of this problem is to ask how many of these civilian casualties could we have avoided. Even when a police shooting is ruled a justifiable homicide, for example, different tactics and better training might still have avoided a fatal confrontation. The justifiable use of deadly force is predicated on existing policies, procedures, tactical training, departmental culture and the careful vetting of law enforcement personnel, to list just a few factors. It is our obligation police action casualties and protect the life and safety of every citizen, including those who are subject of police actions. The problem is very real and it deserves public attention.